Back to school: Frankie McCullough Academy

Frankie McCullough Academy teacher Lenetha Patterson directs students to their classrooms on the first day of school Gary earlier this month. Schools and families across the state are awaiting results of last school year's ILEARN exams, which are set to be released next week.

Have WELEARNED nothing?

The latest round of alphabet soup in Indiana's standardized testing of students again is leaving a bad taste in our collective mouths.

It's time for the state to rename the achievement test IPASS, so that we all can take a pass on this waste of time and resources whose main achievement appears to be forcing valuable instruction time toward test taking and preparation rather than actual teaching.

The state has done nothing to convince any of us that the newest form of standardized testing is any more useful than a No. 2 pencil sharpened down to a nub.

First we had the ISTEP and ISTEP+ exams, which tested Hoosier schoolchildren in the areas of English and math.

But Gov. Mike Pence called for changes to the much-maligned test in 2015, following criticism that the tests weren't hitting their intended marks.

The Indiana Department of Education formed committees of "relevant stakeholders," including teachers, to weigh in on what they would like to see in a new assessment and issued its first request for proposals for a new test in 2017.

All told, more than 500 educators were involved in creating ILEARN, which would become the replacement test.

The first round of ILEARN was administered in the spring to students in grades 3-8.

Just a few months later, we're hearing from some of the state's top officials that the results should be taken with a grain a salt, nullified and shelved because too many students performed poorly on the exams.

In particular, Gov. Eric Holcomb and Superintendent of Public Instruction Jennifer McCormick both say low scores in this year's English/language arts and mathematics assessments should mean that educators should be "held harmless" for the results.

So what was this whole standardized test endeavor really about?

Parents and students know the real results beyond the egg-headed expert-speak of why standardized tests are important, why certain ones are deficient and why the results of some should be disregarded.

Anyone with children in the Hoosier school system within the past few decades knows how much time and energy teachers and students put into preparing for these tests.

And with ILEARN, many Region educators have reported that students were tested above their grade levels and spent hours on each test. It was valuable time taken away from actual, substantive classroom instruction that we hope our tax dollars fund.

The public at-large is barraged with reasoning ranging from proper college preparation to ensuring uniform education standards.

But all we've really seen is criticism of the tests, attempts to rewrite the tests and then a push to ignore the test results once the tests have been retooled.

And we're not hearing this discord in so many other states that use established and well-known achievement tests.

What can we learn from those states? Have we even tried?

The Hoosier state needs to get this right. Its entire education system loses credibility with every misstep, redo and take-back.

Our schoolchildren are the biggest losers in this dance that lacks any concerted rhythm or direction.

We must demand better of the people elected and appointed as stewards of the very foundation for our children's futures.


Members of The Times Editorial Board are Publisher Christopher T. White, Editor Marc Chase, Deputy Editor Kerry Erickson, Regional News Editor Sharon Ross, Assistant Deputy Editor Andrew Steele.